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The Fruits of Ingenuity and Initiative : The funding coups of a Pacoima school boost the notion of site-based management

April 11, 1993

It's safe to say that officials at every school in the Los Angeles district yearn for additional resources. But how much can any one of them accomplish on this front? The answer--provided by Vaughn Street Elementary--is that an extraordinary amount can be accomplished, and the tale of the Pacoima school's efforts demonstrate why individual schools deserve more freedom. It also should serve as an example in the Los Angeles Unified School District of how much can be done under site-based management.

First, principal Yvonne Chan took the $25,000 National Educator Award she had won and used it as a matching fund to apply for monies from RJR Nabisco. The result was a RJR Nabisco grant of $321,000 to Vaughn Street, making the school one of the few in the nation chosen to take part in the corporation's Next Century Schools program.

Chan then used the Nabisco grant to apply for matching funds from the State of California, and wound up obtaining $400,000 to take part in the state's Healthy Start Initiative and $500,000 to take part in the California School Restructuring program. That's $1.2 million obtained by one school, an impressive feat.

The funding will allow Vaughn Street Elementary to meet the needs of its burgeoning population of students from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and other Central American nations. The $400,000 state grant, for example, is funding an on-site health and social services center. It's needed because 75% of the students have limited or no ability in English and 40% of their families earn less than $15,000 annually.

All of this is also a part of Vaughn Street Elementary's bid to become the first LAUSD school to achieve charter status under a new California law that will allow up to 100 schools around the state to operate independently of their parent districts. The L.A. Board of Education is expected to vote by the end of the month on whether to approve Vaughn's charter plan. It seems to us that the board should strongly support the school's request. That's because the school's administrative staff, faculty and parents appear to have also distinguished themselves by smartly negotiating a maze of potential problems that include union representation, obtaining a sound liability insurance package, and teacher tenure and seniority rights.

Principal Chan and the Vaughn Street Elementary staff undoubtedly are motivated additionally by a desire to rid their school of its not-so-distant reputation as one of the least successful schools in the LAUSD. Let's hope their efforts offer a model that other schools will follow.

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